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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker introduces bill to punish reckless swimmers



Rep. Ángel Matos García

By The Star Staff


House Majority Leader Ángel Matos García on Thursday introduced House Bill 2075, to punish swimmers who enter the water at beaches amid dangerous conditions.


The legislation would create the “Law to Safeguard Bathers in Puerto Rico.”


The bill seeks to classify it as a lesser felony when a person with knowledge of the dangerous maritime conditions acts recklessly by entering the sea, beach or body of water, and to establish penalties.


The legislation comes after several people drowned this past week at beaches in Condado and Luquillo. On Thursday, government officials urged swimmers to avoid beaches in the northern part of the island, and in the offshore island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, because of weather conditions.


Following two drownings off La Ventana al Mar in Condado early in the week, authorities responded on Wednesday to alerts of two swimmers being swept offshore by strong currents off La Pared Beach in Luquillo. When police agents assigned to the Puerto Rico Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA by its Spanish acronym) Maritime Unit arrived at the scene, they and Luquillo Emergency Management personnel were able to rescue Benjamin James King, 52, a resident of Minnesota. Another man who reportedly had also been swept away had not been located as of press time.


King was transported by paramedics to Caribbean Medical Center Hospital in Fajardo, where he died while receiving medical assistance.


“We are close to Holy Week and the municipalities, hotels and the state have not begun the efforts to inform citizens that the sea conditions are not safe,” Matos García said. “People risk their lives and die; or those who survive generate thousands of dollars in their rescue, so it is necessary to legislate to prevent more deaths on our beaches.”


The measure establishes that any person who violates the provisions of the law with knowledge of the dangerousness of maritime conditions or with recklessness, will incur a less severe crime and, if convicted, will be imprisoned for a term of no more than six months. The convicted person will have to pay a fine of not less than $500 or more than $5,000, or both submit to penalties at the discretion of the court, if as a consequence of the unlawful reckless act emergency resources are deployed in a rescue effort.


“Last year 32 people died and this year at the rate we are going it will be double that,” Matos García said. “We must give the state and municipalities the tools to intervene with irresponsible people.”


According to local reports, five people have drowned in Puerto Rico waters so far this year.

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3 Comments


Oscar Melendez
Oscar Melendez
Mar 15

People die in car crashes every year too. Are you going to make it illegal to drive in dangerous conditions?

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Oscar Melendez
Oscar Melendez
Mar 15

Surfers and other wave riders enter dangerous waters all the time. This law is ridiculous.

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Janet Fash
Janet Fash
Mar 15

Perhaps the Island could pursue Water Safety Education and swim lessons for kids and their parents . Hotels , municipalities, air B&Bs , etc should post open water condition's in the area. Not all open water is the same. NY state and NYC are building an aquatic culture through education and swim lessons. It breaks my heart when I hear about preventable drownings . “When in doubt don’t go out “.


NYC city council water safety hearing this month :

https://www.swimstrongfoundation.org/creating-a-new-york-aquatics-culture-shawn-slevin-to-the-nyc-council/?fbclid=IwAR06g2uNe4V0l51AiNtpGawHf6ngdfIlA3cpJGpd9ei_E8xFUC9BF_CHruY_aem_ATuVZsw0B0ps92WGYBNQ_1eVWNHtLeqwem1sNxLTM53GVximyklUU75lx9rgtojWGYQ


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